Tag Archives: italy

On Snow


And Lo! Italy donned a white velvet cape, a luxurious garment;  dove-white and soft to the eye. It sparkled when the sun came out, like milk diamonds.

It lay across houses and hills. It alighted on pine needles and berries. It washed over mountains and formed on fence posts like waves about to crash – and stopped there, mid-crest.

It flowed like a river of cream down the roads and paths and tracks and cracks.

Laying in folds across neatly stacked fire wood and forming small tufts along windowsills

It is so grande that it begins to drag on the ground a little. Here the river of cream was pushed back to make way for the cars that are  dug out of the hills of sparkling white. Driving cautiously, topped with precarious mounds they dirty the pristine garment beneath their wheels.
Little jewels of light shine from within the postcard houses, the steepled churches, the antique brick cottages.

Necklaces of pointed ice dangles from sloped shingle roofs, beautiful as they are deadly.

  The wind ruffles the garment as it passes by. It  brushes past the imperial pine trees and small clumps of white shake themselves loose to hit the ground with a dull whump! or a soft pfff.

And the girl from Australia gazes apon Europes winter cape with wide eyes. It coats her hat and tries its hardest to smother the tenacious winter berries.

(Or perhaps they’re flowers?)

She nibbles tentatively on it, humming ‘Glad to have a friend like you’ under her breath. It dampens her gloves.

After she watches it from inside the warm house with her hands wrapped around a mug of chai tea as it she tries to put into words her first experience with snow…

….

Note: My camera seems to be working again folks, so all these photos are taken once again with my wonderful little beast…

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In Which Miss Nom Talks About Couchsurfing

So its time I told you all about Couchsurfing.
Gather round, sit down, would you like a cup of tea?
Are you comfortable? Good, then let us begin.

I first heard about Couchsurfing a few years ago. Now to explain the image that popped into my head on hearing this combination of words I first have to tell you about something in the Guiness book of Records.
There is, in said book of incredible feats, some gentlemen in England who took a couch and made it into a car. A car which you can drive on the road, complete with a pizza tray steering wheel. It has vehicle registration.

They are in the Guiness world records for highest speed achieved by furniture; but between you and me I think the old boys at the Records department just wanted to put this fantastic piece of invention in their book.
Now you can imagine that when I heard someone say ‘Couchsurfing’ I immediately pictured a vivacious and plucky young fellow sailing bravely atop the ocean on some sort of couch-surfboard. That is just the way my mind works.
Unfortunately so far no one has invented a couch-surfboad.
Fortunately someone did invent Couchsurfing.
It is, in essence, a way to travel and meet people.  You stay on someones couch or spare bed or hammock…. And you spend a few days with this person, or people or family.
But more than that. It is a way to immerse yourself more in the culture of the country you are travelling in than when you stay at a hotel. A way to meet the locals, to meet like-minded people and to be reminded that not everything in this world is a business transaction.
It is free. And it is wonderful.
To begin is simple: you join. You make a profile of yourself. Of your likes and dislikes, interests and experiences. You put a photo of yourself. Then before you head to a city or a town that you will be staying in you look at people in the area. People with similar tastes to you. Or different, but something you find interesting. You can send a message to this person telling them why would like to meet them and the fun begins. Of course they have no obligation to accept. But its fantastic to be a host too. A way to travel without leaving your house. To meet interesting people and share your life with them for a moment.
But how safe is it, you ask.
Pretty darn safe, actually. After you stay with someone you leave feedback on your stay. And they leave feedback on how you were as a guest. So when you are looking for a host you simply read about other peoples experiences with them. And if you are, like me, a woman travelling alone, you stay with people who have had lots of guests. And you read about them and you trust your instincts.
In the words of one guy I told about it, and I quote -‘Ah! Its like Ebay!’
Well, sort of, but not really…
Of course occasionally people may be less than great but then they have bad feedback on their profile and you simply dont stay with them… But so far, let me tell you, every experience I have had has been amazing.
I have cooked and danced with these people. I have been to islands and natural hot spring. To concerts and bars. I had a picnic on a bridge in Florence and explored the valley of temples. I have shared stories and met people from all over the world. And my experiences (so far) are just in Italy.
Travellers from Spain, Turkey, Isreal, Syria, Romania, Hungary, America, Mexico, Canada, England, France, Iceland, Ukraine, Nepal, Norway, Germany, Africa and Belgium. I have met people from all over Italy. Young people and old people. Doctors and volenteers and bus drivers. University students and english teachers. Marine bioligists and concert musicians. A single mother who is a physological journalist.
In the last four months, since I started travelling so much of my journey has been with couchsurfers. And couchhosters.
But wait – there’s more.
Let me grab a hunk of local cheese from the fridge… Would you like a slice? I have some fresh sourdough breading knocking about.. Delicious, wot?
Ok. So say you feel a little uncomfortable staying in someones house. Or say you have a gorgeous hotel already set up in London (or Bangkok or Timbuktu) but you would like to meet some people. A traveller or a local. You can. People can put a little coffee-cup symbol on their profile to let you know that they would like to meet for a coffee. Or a tea. Or perhaps to show you around their favorite part of London (or Tokyo or New Orleans)…
Say you would like to meet some people in your own city or small town but you are fresh out of couches or have a difficult housemate or you live in a shoebox size house… No problem! Just pop that little coffee symbol on your profile and a note about meeting people and you can meet travellers from around the world and show them YOUR favorite bookshop or rock climbing place. You can tell them of your trip to Norway last year and they can tell you how they just couchsurfed their way across Brazil. You can meet new friends like this and the world seems a friendlier place.
There is some cynical part of us in this day and age that forgets that people can do acts of kindness, not for monetary gain or work exchange, but simply because its a wonderful thing to do.
And people of every race, of every religion, of every country are sharing their homes with the world. And you can too. It may just change your life…


Flowering Almonds

Today is my last day in the south.
I came here with the plan to stay four or so days in Palermo and then go Wwoofing. But, as everyone knows, when you are on a trip with no plans and you try and make plans, well, things are bound to get twisted.
But how wonderfully twisty these last two months have been. I stayed a month in Palermo, spending Christmas and New Years with the amazing people I met here. Then I did indeed go Wwoofing. I spent three weeks atop a hill in the Sicilian countryside, working on a farm, meeting beekeepers and dairy farmers, seeing old tombes and castles, spending time with my wonderful hosts over long outrageously delicious hand made lunches and learning to make ricotta.

It was often cold when the wind blew off Mt Etna, but when the sun came out you could sit on a rock and see all the way to ocean, across valleys of trees. Old rock walls snake their way hither and thither across the countryside, sometime going nowhere or joining nothing. Painstakingly put together hundreds of years ago in an effort to de-rock the ground, they are quite simply a work of art.
My first wwoofing experience was a wonderful thing.

After many a tearful goodbye I leave the Sicilian countryside to head back to Palermo for a week to catch up with my friends here. I have caught a bit of a cold and feel a quite silly as I spent most of the week reading and watching movies on my laptop that I have already seen.
On the weekend there is a festival called Mandorle In Fiore, which is a festa to celebrate the almond blossoms and I am wildly excited to go to this festival. There will be processions and stalls apon stalls with many different things made out of almonds and music and…
Well before you get too excited let me tell you that it was my first disapointment of this trip.
I rode a bus two hours to Agrigento. It was a cold and windy day. When I arrived I discovered the people I was meant to be meeting couldn’t make it. The procession was fantastic, almost and hour of group apon group of people in medieval dress dancing and singing and throwing ceremic vases in the air, or flags at each other like colorful javelins.
But after I went to where the stalls were and they were all very commercial and mostly had nothing to do with almonds, flowering or no.  I walked around in the drizzle staring at imports from countries, the same that you can find at almost any market. There were some almond nougats and pralines, but that was about it.
So I spent the day reading Huckleberry Fin on my new E-reader and drinking too many coffees in my attempt to stay out of the rain.
Which was grande, because Huckleberry Fin is a wonderful book (read it, I tell you) but all in all a sad disapointment overall for this flowering almond festival…
Perhaps on other days it was better, and the weather put a damper on things… I dont know.
But tomorrow, ladies and gentlemen, I fly back to Bologna to catch up with people there and to see snow for the first time! By the time you read this, I may just well be making a snowman or else hiding by the fire and trying to keep warm.
One of the two. After Bologna I head to Verona to see the city of Romeo and Juliet before getting crazy at Carnevale in Venice.
I believe its going to be packed full of people like sardines in a tin… But they will all be wearing masks and gowns, and that will make it all worth while.
See you in the land of the snow…


Meltingly Tender Fennel Bake

 

What Is The Long and Short Of It?

The short Of It

1 large brown onion – roughly chopped

4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

A good glug of Olive oil

4 bulbs of fennel

2 handfuls of grated Parmesan

100 gm of butter

100 gm of flour 800 ml of milk

Nutmeg (freshly grated please) 

A few peppercorns and a bay leaf

Salt

Rosemary, finely chopped

Splash of white wine if you have some hanging around

 Put the onion and garlic and finely chopped rosemary in a large frypan with the olive oil. Turn the heat onto low and cook for 6 minutes, stirring occasionaly, not allowing any color.

Meanwhile cut the fennel bulb into long wedges and put aside the frilly leaves for later. After your onion and garlic is fragrant and translucent add the fennel wedges. Stir to coat with onioney oil. Add a pinch of salt. Splash in about 1/4 cup of water or white wine if you happen to have some and turn the heat to the lowest it will go, cover with a fitting lid and allow to infuse with flavor and soften. After 10 minutes turn off heat but leave the lid on. The fennel will go right ahead and get more tender as it sits in its owner little sauna.

For the bechemel sauce; (don’t be intimidated: its just a white sauce)

 Put a pot on the stove with the milk, a bay leaf, a few pepper corns and any tough trimmings from the fennel and onion. Bring to almost boiling. Turn off and strain.

Melt butter over a low heat till liquid. Bung in the flour, all in one go – Bam! Whisk till smooth. Whisk slowly for 1 minute, allowing flour to cook a little. Add a ladle of milk. Be careful, it may hiss at you. Whisk till smooth. Repeat a ladlefull at a time until all the milk is added. Cook 5 minutes, whisking gently. Add half the grated parmesan, a good grating of nutmeg and adjust the salt as necessary. Tada! Bechemel…

Mix Fennel and all its juices into the bechemel and pour into a baking dish with a lid. Failing that, some foil. Sprinkle with other parmesan and bake at 160 about 40 minutes. Finely Chop fennel leaves (or snip with scissors) and garnish just before serving. Devour.

 

 The Long Of It

Fennel is one of my favorite vegetables, and a poor misunderstood little lady she is.

Sure if you chew on a large hunk you may find it to taste far too aniseedy for your liking, but dont be dissauded. Slice it thinly and dress it with a little olive oil and lemon juice.

 Cook it slowly with your onion and garlic to add extra flavor to the base of your soup.

Buy a nice small one and cut little chunks for a perfect addition to your cheese fondue.. What you dont make fondue? Ill show you how soon!

Bake fennel slowly for a sweet caramelized vegetable similar to whole baked onions. The limits are endless and I encourage you to start buying these pale green beauties and give them a go.

This dish is a great way to start. As the title suggests its meltingly tender, rich and creamy like the best kind of potato bake. The fennel has a wonderful sublte flavor, a hint of aniseed, so fleeting you may not even place it. If fennel happens to be a little pricey when you make this dish you can (and I often do) replace half the fennel with chunks of potato. I served this dish most recently to three Italians and two americans who am am staying with in Sicily and it was one of those moments where two bites in everyone was insisting on the recipe and buy the end Peter and Dylis, who grow vegetable on their farm, had decided that growing fennel was an idea worth persuing. It works beautifully as a side dish and is wonderfully warm on those chilly windswept days. Enjoy.


The Day Of The Ricotta

Saturday was to be The Day Of The Ricotta.

 Friday afternoon we went ona little venture to organize the milk. In the Sicilian countryside this is not as quick as it may seem. We are shown the cows. There are small gambolling calfs and large cynical mothers who regard us through half open eyes as they methodically chew their cud. Next we are taken inside where the farmers wife pulls a bottle of limoncello from the cupboard and puts out little plastic cups. It is only four in the afternoon, but you dont serve coffee this late in the day. And so we sit sipping on the tartly sour lemon liquer as we are shown photos of their children as babies and told that they have relatives in Australia and ask Miki how it is going on her farm. We tell them that we are going to make ricotta tomorrow and they nod solemnly. The farmer looks like you would imagine a typical Italian farmer to look. Large belly, larger apron and a booming voice. Apon hearing that I am a chef he promptly tells Miki that he would like me to come and stay at his house, just for one day, to teach his wife to cook. His wife hits him around the head. We leave a huge plastic bottle for the early morning milking the next day and head back to the farm.

The Day Of The Ricotta dawns. After a hot sweet black coffee and a bowl of yoghurt with homegrown oranges we head out to do some work before the ricotta making begins. There is a lot to do on the farm. This morning we are finishing varnishing the house of the donkeys. This involves climbing a ladder balanced somewhat precariously on a large several feet above the ground while Dylis holds the ladder in place and I use one hand to to paint, the other to hold myself steady using a nearby tree branch. After the top of the little cabin is varnished to within an inch of its life we get the news.

The milk has arrived.. The house I am staying in is over 200 years old, renovated and tastefully decorated. There is a large open kitchen, windows looking out over the vegetable garden. The countertops are sicilian handpainted ceramique blasted onto huge sleps of lava stone from etna. There are huge polished wooden drawers with a smooth tile floor and a little wood burning stove. Their are forget-me-not blue lace curtains crocheted by the amazing and multi-talented Gueseppina. For me it is a dream kitchen. But this is not where we will be making the ricotta.

 Enter the laundry. This is where the ricotta has been made for an age. There is a large ring gas burner atop which is placed an enormous pot filled with the fresh milk. Stage one involves waiting. We wait as the milk comes to temperature. As we wait we are shown what the ricotta is traditionally shaped in. Little handwoven baskets. But they are not used anymore due to hygiene reasons but nevertheless still adorn the walls of the room. Standing around the slowly heating milk are seven of us. Miki and Sylvio. Our hosts. Miki’s mother Guesepina, peering expertly through her glasses at the pot. Dylis and Peter, my fellow woofers. They are from Cape Cod in American where they passionately (and successfully) grow vegetables despite their soil being made almost entirely from sand. Lucia, the maid. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is a maid. But not in the regular sense. Rather she is a friend who comes round twice a week to give their big old home a thorough cleaning. Apon arriving she is invited in, sat down with a cup of tea whereapon her and Miki have a half an hour conversation before she cleans the bejusus out of the house. Not that it isnt always spotless, anyway. But besides helping them clean apparently when ricotta making time comes around Lucia helps with the cheese making. She makes it at her own house and each time they are comparing techniques and tips. And me. The cheese-loving chef from Australia who is about to see ricotta being made for the first time.

 

The rennet is added and once the milk is brought slowly to 40 degrees a lid is placed atop, the heat is turned off and we all file out to go set the table. Setting the table today does not just involve placing glasses and plates, cutlery and a bottle of wine. Sylvio pulls a large sausage shaped hunk of cured meat reverently from the fridge and with great precision begins to carve it in wafer thin slices. He asks me if I know bresaola, the cured meat in question. I do. It is wonderful indeed. He asks me if I know carpaccio. I do. But I know it as seared (or totally raw) beef sliced paper thin and topped with oil, shaved parmesan, pepper and rocket. He explains that originally carpaccio was made with bresaola, the cured meat he is currently slicing. This I did NOT know…

We squeeze lemon all over the bresaola, drizzle with olive oil from their farm and a good grating of black pepper. Several layers later we sprinkle with shaved parmesan and place on the table. Photo’s are taken. And with that we all head back to the cheese making room.

The milk has set into a jelly like consistency. The jelly is first sliced into pieces inside the pot and then stirred. The heat is back and and once again we watch the slowly heating milk. Lucia is stirring, stirring. Boiling hot water is poured into the continuesly stirred milk. Now the contents of the pot have turned opaque instead of white and the time is near. Minutes later Lucia reaches her arms into the pot and pulls from deep within the liquid a soft white cheese. But, we learn, this is not the ricotta. Ricotta in Italian, literally means ‘recooked’ and is a method for extracting further cheese from the whey, the leftover liquid… I never knew that! The first cheese, the curd that is here called Tuma is pulled apart and placed into tubs.

We are all given chunks in bowls with plastic spoons and taste the still warm curd. It is quite soft but a little bland. A good base for making things, i think. Nevertheless it is delicious. Like slightly chewy warm milk. Now the ricotta begins. The liquid is heated for the third time. We take turns stirring and Lucia checks the consistency with her spoon from time to time. She takes a spoonfull and pours it back into the pot from a height. Miki and Sylvio have a thermometer but Lucia can see by sight. Or so it seems. Once the milk reaches about 60 degrees in goes 5 litres of cold milk, a glass of lemon juice and the salt. Again we wait. The pressure builds. There are murmers in Italian. What is wrong, we ask. It seems to be taking too long. Wait, wait, says Lucia. The tension in the room becomes palpable as ‘tiny tiny ricotta’ begins to form on the surface of the liquid. Small beads solidying whiteness. But is is enough? This pot is aluminium and it is much better to use stainless, they say. Lucia looks nervous. Gueseppina kneels down, almost eye to eye with the top of the pot and nods. The bead become bigger. Its forming! Suddenly everyone is yelling and hugging each other and yelling Ricotta! Ricotta! Just as quickly silence falls as we see Lucia’s face. Perhaps we cheered to soon. It still may not come good. Now the tension is like the set milk. You could slice it with a knife. You could put it on a plate and watch it wobble… The whole surface begins to coagulate and gently, gently, Lucia pulls the curd inwards and it continues to form. And yes. It is ok. A collective sigh of release. We take turns lifting the soft warm ricotta into little draining pots where the water slips away and more portions are served out which we ferry to the table. And we sit and eat a bowl of hot ricotta with fresh bread. It is soft and slightly salty and oh-so decadant. To be sitting at a table and eating a bowl of fresh cheese. Those of us that eat meat dive into the carpaccio and everyone sips on local wine and after we eat homemade almond biscotta with sweet moscatto.

Ah warm ricotta, it is nice to meet you…

 

Note: my camera is out of action so all photos are courtesy or Longneck Road Productions, my fellow wwoofer Peter.


Countrywards

After three months of being a tourist I am beggining to get itchy fingers. I dont remember the last time I went 3 months without  working or studying. I like to learn and be active. I have discovered that in the last few weeks that I seem to fall into a hole of laziness if I do not keep myself occupied. Not really my cup of tea. And so, without further ado, I head countrywards.

Wwoofing is a worldwide program that involves staying on small organic farms and working  in exchange for food and a bed. In the process you get to meet people, exchange cululture, learn about organic farming and whatever else your particular farm may be doing. In each country there is a list that you recieve apon joining and within can be found a description of all the farms that take wwoofers and you can contact them individually.

I contacted four in Sicily that sounded wonderful and recieved an immediate reply from one I was super excited about. A married couple and the lady’s mother owned a farm where they had 6 dogs, 4 cats, 2 donkeys, fruit trees and olives… They have a woodfired oven which they use to make bread and pizza and sometimes they make cheese.

And now I am here and it glorious.

 My hosts are named Sylvio and Miki and Miki’s mother Gueseppina  and together they run this rocky sicilian farm. They have a huge 200 year old renovated house and like anywhere, there is plenty to do on the farm…

 There are two other wwoofers here, a retired American couple from Cape Cod, who escape the winter snows each year by Wwoofing somewhere warm. They have their own farm on the Cape where they too have a renovated old house and grow fruits and vegetables which they sell to some very lucky local restuarants.

  Guiseppina is 74 and one of the most sprightly ladys I have ever met. She cooks, cleans, gardens, irons for the locals, helps with the animals and keeps their beautiful home as clean as a pin, all with a huge smile on her face and a warm laugh.

Since I arrived we have learnt to feed the donkeys, pruned, cleared fallen trees, burnt brush, collected firewood, cooked many incredible meals with many exclamations of, ‘Buono! Buono!’ and occasionally, ‘Buonissimo!” and even sometimes ‘Bella Sape’ which is Sicilian for ‘Beautiful food!’

  Guiseppina speaks not a word of English but we have been communicating with the help of wild hand gestures, some mutual words and the occasional use of the dictionary till we arrive at our final point whereapon we both start yelling, ‘Capito! Capito!’ … ‘I understand!’

 Two days ago I made some homemade pasta using a rolling pin. I was a little nervous for two reasons. First of all because I have never made pasta using just a rolling pin (I normally use a pasta machine) and second because I was making pasta for some full blooded Italians and the Nonna of the house…

  They loved it! They told me to stay forever and never leave and everyone was laughing and the wine was local and plentiful and it was a grande moment indeed.

 The morning starts with fresh espresso that fills the kitchen with the rich smells of roasting coffee. After our morning work Sylvio takes us for a tour of some the local scenery. Nearby there is a large estate owned by a Baron. I kid you not, a baron. On top of the hill there is a small castle that we go to see.

Let me paint a picture for you. It is technically still winter and when the wind blows from the north you can feel the chill. But today the sun is shining and the north wind has stoppped and before long we are taking off our big coats. We stop the car by a gate and begin the walk up a long driveway bordered by fields of coarse brush, tenacious little flowers and flourishing wild fennel. At the top of the hill is a small castle. Sylvio tells us that hundreds of years ago the baron would come to this small castle-atop-the-hill, climb to the top and from there he would use his spyglass to select beautiful girls that would then be sent to his house. Or so the story goes. On each side of the castle there are rose bushes that are still hibarnating but apparently each bush is a different colored rose. You can see all the way to the sea from here and many of the land you can see is owned by the Baron who doesnt even live here. He visits in the summer but normally he lives in Syracuse. There is a huge old olive tree that I fall promptly in love with. It is gnarled and twisted and filled with holes and has so much character I feel I could spend a summer reading while sitting in the nook of one of its wrinkled branches.

  Next up is the Barons summer house. It is vast and ancient with sloping fields of olive trees and an orangeria (a garden full of orange trees for strolling in) a pool the size of a small ocean and beautiful little garden nooks. There is a huge old olive press that was pulled by a donkey back in the day. And nobody lives here most of the year. There are workers to look after the olive groves but other than that it is mostly abandoned. It is breathtakingly gorgeous.. The only reason we are allowed to see any of this is because Sylvio seems to know the caretaker. At least I think he is the caretaker…

After walking around with our mouths open for half an hour we get back in the car to go to see some 4000 year old tombs. They are really just big holes dug into the side of the mountain but it is a little crazy to be inside something that people were buried in over 4000 years ago. We find 4 little spears of wild asparagus and gently take them back to the house.

Ah Sicily.

I spend the afternoon making biscotti (the real name is Cantucci) because I mentioned the night before that I knew how to make it.  This is a more exciting task than usual due to the fact that this family grows almonds and they happen to have some. So for an hour I crack open the little beauties with a hammer and ‘the special rock’  and bake them into biscuits. The house fills with the aromatic scent of almonds and orange. After a lip-smacking dinner of penne with broccoli, fresh ricotta fritters and steamed fresh artichokes with with yoghurt dipping sauce we consume the crumbly cantucci with local moscato and laugh till our sides hurt after Gueseppina tells us that her friend, apon hearing that she was hosting a chef, tried to set me up with her son. Apparently he has 100 cows. Well there you go.

Tomorrow we make fresh ricotta, and, weather permitting, we will light up the woodfired oven and bake pizza for dinnner….

 

Note : Due to the fact that my camera is currently slightly broken there is no pictures for the moment. I will do my best to rectify the situation as soon as is possible.


Christmas In A Strange Land

 

When I first arrived in Italy a year seemed like a gapingly big amount of time. And now, three months  later, it seems like if I blink too fast it might be gone.

Three months! Ye Gods, how did that happen? I have spent the last three weeks staying with a wonderful Turkish girl in Palermo. I was planning on going Wwoofing much earlier than this, but I arranged to go after the New Year, which, when you think about it, makes a lot of sense actually.

 So I spent my first Christmas away from my family.

We were invited by Senem’s boss’s to spend Christmas at their house which was wonderfully lovely of them and it was a simple affair. I made Moussaka and spiced chocolate brulee’s. We ate homemade bread, drank wine and talked. A friend of theirs, a stylish old turkish gentleman who spoke not a word of english arrived towards the end of the meal and we coaxed him into trying the aforementioned spiced chocolate dessert. He ate it with gusto and when he was asked if he liked it he motioned to his face and said, ‘Isnt it obvious?’

Made me feel happy.

 It has struck me as humorous that I came half way around the world and still spent my Christmas without snow. But Christmas to me has, and always will be, about good food and nice company. It does not need to be an extravagant affair, only a enjoyable one.

And I will see snow eventually. Hopefully soon. That’s right folks, I have never seen snow.

 On the penultimate day of the year there was a charity concert being held in a town 2 hours drive away and we spent the week trying to organize a lift. Everyone said maybe and perhaps and we will see how it goes. Friday arrived and everyone decided it was too far or they were busy or they had to stay home and wax their otters… so we said, fine, whatever, and caught a train 3 hours to the city which had the unlikely name of Barcelona PG.  We henceforth reffered to it as ‘Fake Barcelona’. Not long after arriving it began to rain. So we danced in the rain. It rained on and off for the whole concert and we stuck it out like the adventurers of old, freezing and wet and dancing till our teeth were chattering. We finished at 1 am, dripping wet and cold to the bone but smiling. We arrived home at 5 am and fell promptly asleep. New Years was not fantastic (not bad, just not great) but I always seem to have a bad new years (no idea why) so I didnt mind.

Some of my other adventures from the last few weeks include; seeing the last King of Italy’s summer palace… Next to which there was a antique museum which had just opened a week before, curated by this nice looking gentlemen…

Being let inside a gorgeous old spanish Villa to explore and waltz secretly amongst the fading opulence..

Making Pizza in Senems ill equipped kitchen using a new recipe that I had never used before involved cooking the pizza in a frying pan with a no-knead dough. It turned out amazingly… Who woulda thunk it?

Dancing in the kitchen of some Transylvanian friends while drinking sangria after a ferocious game of Settlers of Catan…. And visiting the gorgeous castle-by-the-sea not far from Catania. It was a sad goodbye to these wonderful friends I have made in Sicily and if I have any say in the matter I will see them again. The saddest part of travelling is the continual good bye’s. But the memories and the moments make it all worthwhile…